I’ve spent the better part of my life keeping a journal. It’s carried me through several chapters of my life, across notebooks and bullet journals, and has been adapted and changed so many times I’ve lost count. The wonderful thing about journaling is that it is a practice I can, and have, always returned back to.
Long before my autism diagnosis I kept a journal. I felt a sort of pull to write my thoughts and ideas and plans down onto paper. It remains the only way I can express myself wholly and completely - and do so without judgment or censorship, from myself or others.
Journaling has given me a creative outlet. One that is basic in nature, but has the potential for growth and learning. It can be forever expanded upon, or simplified down to its most vital components.
So, without further ado, here are some of the benefits journaling has provided me, and will soon be of help to you as well.
Brain dumps are best for when your head is full. Full of thoughts and feelings, ideas, anxiety, and so on. Writing these thoughts down is how I declutter my mind.
Just as our environment can become overwhelming, so too, can our minds. When I find myself spiraling or in overthinking loops, I write it down. The act alone puts distance between myself and the problem and (usually) stops the loop.
While I’ve heard fellow Autistics use their journal to track meltdown/shutdowns, or overstimulation, my sensory reflection appears most often in my daily journaling.
Each day I split a page in half lengthwise. One side for tasks, the other for gratitude and journaling. If I’m feeling sensory overwhelm or like I’m in a shutdown, it gets written down first thing in the morning.
Once my tasks are filled out and I have a plan for the day, I check in with myself. I ask “What am I feeling?” or “Is there anything bothering or upsetting me?” Questions such as these give me the space to record the positive days and be grateful for them, as well as the low days, the days I’m overstimulated, run-down, or upset about fighting with my sister. Again.
For example, I might write something like:
I’m feeling good today. I slept well and I’m excited to get to work. But, I’m worried about this weekend and if I’m going to have to pet sit at my parents place again. They just had to go camping every weekend this summer, didn’t they?
I write like I’m talking to myself. This stream of consciousness at the start of the day helps get any nagging thoughts or feelings out of the way which allows me to focus on what I need to.
It’s been said within the community that Autistics can be exceptionally self-aware. This, however, develops over time.
I started bullet journaling in 2017, after I’d already completed high school, but before that I always had a notebook handy. I journaled all the time even if I didn’t call it that. I believe this is where my self-awareness began to grow, all the way back in high school.
One of the things I love the most about journaling is how it can take the intangible and make it tangible. As I mentioned before, the act alone of writing things down puts distance between myself and the problem or event. It turns my thoughts (intangible) into words on a physical page (tangible). I can read it back, add to it, or edit it.
All of this aids in self-reflection and in turn, self-awareness because if you can describe an event and your thoughts and feelings around it, then you can begin to learn from it.
I’ve mentioned Autistic Realizations in previous posts, however, I think it’s worth mentioning again. When I was first diagnosed with Autism, there were so many things swirling around my mind and I had to get it out. Similar to a Brain Dump, I titled a spread Autistic Realizations and began to dump everything I’d learned or remembered about being autistic down onto the page.
This is, frankly, a collection I should return to as new realizations occur all the time, but I haven’t been writing them down lately. For example, I was reminded the other night watching Tiktok’s that I was teased a bit at school. Once by a girl in my grade who called me a boy for having cut my hair shorter than usual. I’d totally forgotten about it until I remembered those other times I was “teased” at school and I either brushed it off because I didn’t care or I didn’t understand the “joke.”
I feel like it’s worth writing about these memories. Especially as we collectively learn more about Autism as a society. What convinced me that I was Autistic in the first place, were the commonalities in experiences between me and other Autistics.
I think one of the most difficult things in life is figuring out your needs and in turn any accompanying accommodations. I’ve seen several Tiktok’s where people are asking what to even ask for when it comes to accommodations at school or in the workplace.
Add years of masking to this already ambiguous situation and naming your needs becomes a drastic learning curve you’re not sure you're ready for.
I remember my first year of college I registered with Accessibility Services for my anxiety. I had no idea what to ask for. Even the accommodations suggested to me I didn’t end up needing. Without knowing I was Autistic, and without knowing who I really was behind the mask, I had no way of identifying my needs.
So, now that I know, I think naming and writing these needs and accommodations down is an important way of turning something so confusing into something tangible that I can refer back to if needed.
Some of my needs now are:
Wearing headphones or earplugs when overstimulated, or to avoid it altogether.
Taking regular breaks and not overworking myself. Having my own business allows me to set my own hours and choose what I work on each day.
Having a plan or at least knowing the plan ahead of time.
Digital communication such as text and emails. I’ll even take video chats or a meeting in-person over phone calls.
I need structure when working with clients even if that means I set up and organize the documents and they provide me with the information I need to do the work.
Collect Special Interests
One of my favourite things to do is create collections based on my special interests.
For example, I just started keeping a reading log. I love to read, but I would often finish a book and move on too quickly to the next without taking note of my thoughts and feelings. This is especially important if I plan on writing a book review for my blog. So, now I write down a few bullet points after each reading session.
I’ve also done spreads for my WIPs and stories. Outlining characters, summarizing the plot, a word count goal, etc. I quite enjoy the process of both writing and creating bujo spreads that go along with them.
There you have it, six significant ways journaling can change and benefit your life as an Autistic. Thank you to those who stuck around and read the full post. If you have any other Autistic Journal ideas leave a comment below!
P.S. Don't forget about the Autistic Dotted Journal Collection that's launching September 1st, 2023. It's just a few days away now!